NEWS presenter Pam Royle was one of the first patients to try a pioneering new test to identify those at low risk of skin cancer spreading.

Scientists at Newcastle University developed the test to reliably predict if a melanoma is unlikely to spread or return. It is expected to be available within two years– relieving stress for many people and enabling the NHS to look after higher risk patients.

The prognostic test for the earliest stages of melanoma, called AMBLor, is able to better identify a patient’s true risk of disease progression. It provides all those diagnosed with stage 1 melanoma with more accurate information about the risk of the disease spreading. This is up to 70 per cent of new patients.

The team tested 400 archived biopsies from patients who had a stage 1 melanoma diagnosis and showed that the test could predict long term prognosis of the disease and in the future could help clinicians develop personalised treatment plan.

Chief scientist Professor Penny Lovat, Professor of Cellular Dermatology and Oncology at Newcastle University and Chief Scientific Officer at AMLo Biosciences, the University spin-out company behind the testing kit said: “Building on our previous studies, this new research demonstrates that the loss or reduction of these proteins indicate that the tumour is more likely to spread allowing us to develop our test, called AMBLor. This can be applied to the standard biopsy and identifies those who have these low-risk, less aggressive cancers.

“As a patient, the AMBLor test tells you if you’re in the low risk category – and can offer you reassurance. It could also save the NHS up to £38 million a year by reducing the number of follow-up appointments for those identified as low-risk.”

Dr Rob Ellis is an Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer at Newcastle University, and also a Consultant Dermatologist and Chief Medical Officer at AMLo Biosciences.

He said: “My colleagues and I are seeing more and more patients referred to our NHS clinics as the number of cases of melanoma increases – and we know that 17,000 patients are diagnosed in the UK every year.

“What we have developed is a test which will offer personalised, prognostic information – so we will be able to more accurately predict if your skin cancer is unlikely to spread. This is a really exciting finding for clinicians and in the future it will helps us tailor the treatment and follow up appointments in an appropriate fashion.”

The research was funded by Melanoma Focus, The British Skin Foundation, Cancer Research UK, The Newcastle Healthcare Charities and The North Eastern Skin Research Fund.

Professor Paul Lorigan, chairman of Melanoma Focus, said: “We congratulate Professor Lovat, Dr Ellis and their team at Newcastle on this important discovery. Knowing which patients with early stage melanoma are not at risk of their cancer returning will be a key element in how clinicians plan their follow-up. It offers the prospect of treating patients more accurately, reducing their stress and saving the NHS a great deal of money. Melanoma Focus is delighted to have helped fund this research.”

The team have created AMLo Biosciences and are seeking approvals for the test to make it available to patients within a couple of years.

Ms Royle, diagnosed with melanoma in 2016, said: “I didn’t actually realise how serious a diagnosis that was at first. I knew it meant cancer but little more than that.

“My consultant Dr Rob Ellis explained invasive melanoma by drawing a diagram for me. It showed how the melanoma can grow downwards through the epidermis to the lower layers of the skin, the dermis and potentially into the blood vessels found there.

“Mine had invaded the dermis and so was critically close to my bloodstream.

“All kinds of things raced through my head. I feared the worst and imagined how much distress may lie ahead for my family. I didn’t know how to tell them. And I knew I didn’t want to.

“Dr Ellis told me I was very fortunate, as it had been caught very early so there was only about a 5 per cent chance that it may have travelled into the bloodstream.

“I urge everyone who notices any changes on their skin to go to their doctor and seek advice. My lesion was very, very small. It didn’t look dangerous to me – but it was new and changing. It was just a small dark dot, with a lighter wavy surround. I had only noticed it for a few weeks but if I had waited any longer, the outcome may have been very different.

“I was asked by Dr Ellis if I would like to be part of the research his team were doing into a new test, which can predict whether your melanoma is likely to spread or return.As part of the research I was shown a wafer thin slice of my melanoma under a micro-scope which revealed that I was one of the lucky ones. I am a low risk patient."